You are ready to get the upper body you’ve always wanted. Maybe you just want to send those “bat wings” flapping away or you dream of sculpted biceps and pecs. Where to get started? A great option is to pick up a curl bar and get to work. If you are new to fitness or just want to spice up your upper body routine, you may wonder about what curl bar weight to use. Before we can answer that question, let’s look at what a curl bar is and which movements are ideal for a curl bar. Once you’ve got that information under your belt, we can start discussing ideal curl bar weight so your arms and chest will make you proud.
Introducing the Curl Bar
If you’ve gone to a big, traditional gym, then you’re probably familiar with a barbell. An Olympic barbell is typically 7.2 feet long and weighs 44 pounds without any weight on it. This type of barbell is great for big movements, like deadlifts, back squats, and front squats. But what if you want to work on the smaller muscles of your upper body? In this instance, an Olympic barbell or even a standard barbell can often feel too heavy and cumbersome.
Fortunately, there are smaller bars designed specifically for upper body work and curling-type exercises. There are several different forms of “curl bars,” which are smaller, shorter, and lighter than a standard or Olympic barbell. The most popular type of curl bar is the easy curl bar or EZ curl bar. EZ curl bars are “easy” to spot, as they have two sharp bends in the bar that give it an “M” shape. These angled grips make it easier for exercisers to isolate upper body muscles when using the bar.
What Kinds of Exercises Are Ideal for a Curl Bar?
EZ curl bars are your ticket to a powerful upper body and can help you target your biceps, triceps, forearms, shoulders, pecs, and even your traps and upper back. Here are just a few exercises that were practically made for the EZ curl bar.
Bicep Curls/Preacher Curls
It’s all about the biceps, right? If so, then start your curl bar workout with either bicep curls or preacher curls. The movements are very similar, but the preacher curl includes the use of a preacher pad, which allows you to isolate and target the biceps even more.
You might not realize this, but the three-headed triceps muscle is actually the biggest muscle in your arm. By toning this big guy, you can help wave away your bat wings or make your arms look even more toned. To perform a triceps extension, start in a seated position. Hold the curl bar overhead and then slowly lower it behind your head, hinging at the elbows. When your elbows are at 90-degrees, use your triceps to lift the bar back up until your arms are straight.
Think bicep curl but switch your grip so that your knuckles are facing outward and your fingers are facing toward your body. You’ll be standing for this movement. Start with the bar in front of your hips, and lift it up toward your chest, hinging at the elbows. Keep your back straight and force your forearms to do the work.
It’s time to get in some chest. If you own a weight bench, you can use your curl bar to perform standard or incline bench presses to develop your pectoral muscles and to give your shoulders and triceps some nice accessory work as well.
Your shoulders are getting a little jealous of all your other upper body muscles. Time to give them some attention. Start the shoulder press by holding the curl bar in the front rack position with your elbows in front of your body. Using your shoulders, lift the bar slowly overhead and bring it back down. Try not to bend your back or push the bar out instead of up. If you start arching your back, it means you’ve put too much weight on the bar.
Finally, let’s finish your curl bar routine with a little work on your upper back (rhomboids). Stand up but keep your knees a little loose. Bend over, hinging at the hips and keeping your back straight. Let the curl bar hang down between your chest and your hips. Now, pull the bar towards your chest while squeezing your shoulder blades together. You should feel this movement in your upper back and your triceps.
If you want to give your shoulders some extra love, perform this same movement while standing up straight, which is known as an upright row.
Adding Weight to Your Curl Bar
Now that you have a few handy curl bar exercises in your back pocket, let’s talk about what your curl bar weight should be. The answer depends on your level of fitness and the type of workout you want to perform.
Standard Strength Training
If you want to increase your strength and grow your muscles, An effective way is to perform three sets of five to eight reps of a given movement at a weight you find heavy but manageable. You’ll know you’ve picked the right weight when the last two reps are a challenge to complete.
If you are new to the fitness game, start with a light weight or even just an empty bar and focus on form. Add weight slowly and don’t work out the same muscle groups two days in a row. If you start to feel your form compromising – for example, you start swinging your arms when performing bicep curls to lift the bar– lower the weight.
Perform your reps slowly, moving through the full plane of motion for the exercise. You want to keep your muscle under tension throughout the movement to get the full benefit of each rep. If you aren’t feeling tired by the last two reps of your set, then congratulations! Your muscles are growing stronger, and you can add more weight onto your next set.
This exercise scheme is as painful as it is effective. The concept is simple. Load your bar with a heavy weight and then perform as many good reps of your chosen movement as possible until you reach failure. (If your form starts buckling, you’ve reached failure.) As soon as that happens, take off a little of the weight, then pick up the bar and continue to perform the exercise at the lighter weight until you reach failure again. Repeat this process until you get down to just the bar and fail at that weight. Give yourself plenty of rest after completing your drop sets. You will definitely be sore from this the next day!
Set of 100
Generally, performing a high number of reps at a light weight isn’t a great way to build muscle. However, there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes it can be useful to challenge your muscular stamina. A great, though challenging, way to do this is to put a light amount of weight on the bar and perform 100 reps of a single movement. The key here is to keep the weight light or even just use the empty curl bar if this is your first time performing this type of workout. A great goal would be to perform 50 reps, then rest two minutes, perform 30 reps then rest two minutes, and then perform the last 20 reps. If that rep scheme is too difficult, you can also try 40, 30, 20, 10.
This type of workout is probably best for intermediate or advanced athletes and shouldn’t be attempted more than once a month at the most.
Get the Right Curl Bar and Curl Bar Weights at Marcy
A curl bar is an excellent addition to your home gym, especially if you want to tone and define your upper body. At Marcy, we offer the Marcy Solid Steel Olympic Curl Bar, a 2-Piece Standard Super Curl Bar, and a Threaded Curl Bar. Any of these high-quality and durable curl bars will do the trick for your curl bar fitness routines. We also sell the standard and Olympic-sized weight plates you need in order to perform all the exercises explained in this article.
Now that you know how to use your curl bar, it’s time to invest in one and get to work. Happy lifting!